How Much Does a Civil Engineer Make?

December 4, 2012

One thing every college student asks is: “How much money is my degree going to be worth?” That’s a valid question, considering the amount of time and effort they are putting into gaining that coveted piece of paper. If college is an investment in one’s future, then it’s nice to have an idea of what kind of return that investment is going to bring in.

The U. S. Department of Labor tracks all types of statistics about jobs in America, including how much money people make for performing various types of work. According to their statistics, the mean salary for Civil Engineers with a bachelor’s degree in 2010 was $77,560 per year. For those that prefer to think in hourly wages, rather than annual salary, that works out to $37.29 per hour.

This mean takes into consideration the salary of those who are new to civil engineering, who make about $48,000 per year and those who are at the top of the field, drawing about $115,000 per year. That puts civil engineering right about average for engineering careers. The highest paying engineering careers are in petroleum, nuclear, computer hardware and aerospace. At the other end of the spectrum, agricultural engineers are the lowest paid engineering discipline, with industrial engineers following them.

When comparing civil engineering to other fields that require a bachelor’s degree, we find that the average starting salary for civil engineers is approximately equal to the average of all professions that require the same educational level. However, civil engineering provides greater opportunities for advancement than many other career choices.

What Affects Civil Engineer’s Salaries?

The wide range of civil engineering salaries can be attributed to a number of factors. Since these statistics take into consideration all practicing civil engineers, the biggest factor is experience. Civil engineers who have just graduated from college don’t earn as much as experienced civil engineers. This difference compensates experienced civil engineers for their ongoing education and what they’ve learned by practical application of their skills.

Besides experience, education and certifications can affect civil engineers’ salaries. There are only a very small percentage of civil engineers who go on to receive their master’s degrees. This added education pays direct dividends in higher salaries and more responsibility. Other certifications prepare the civil engineer for management positions, which of course pay better.

The other major factor that affects the salary of a small percentage of the top civil engineers is their reputations. A civil engineer who has been responsible for the design of a major project, especially one that stands out as an engineering marvel, is in very high demand. These top civil engineers can just about write their own ticket, parleying their reputation for higher salaries and the ability to select which jobs they choose to work on.

The Future of Civil Engineering

With the constant population growth and the constant need for new buildings, dams, bridges, water management and power production, the future of civil engineering looks bright. According to the Department of Labor, civil engineering jobs are expected to climb at a rate of 19% through 2020.

As concerns with space utilization increase from population pressures we will see a need for more innovation in the civil engineering field. There is still plenty of opportunity for innovation in all civil engineering specialties. Today’s emphasis on “going green” and sustainability is creating incredible opportunities for civil engineers to create innovative designs.

Those who grasp this opportunity for innovation today will become the civil engineering leaders of tomorrow. As these new technologies develop, the civil engineers who develop the breakthrough designs and technologies needed to meet those demands will be the ones who are the highest earners.

Conclusion

Civil engineering provides comparable pay to other professions that require a similar educational level. However, for those who are innovators, meeting society’s growing needs, civil engineering provides some excellent opportunities for growth. These top innovators will be the ones who become the leaders in the field, both in their earnings and in the positions that they hold.